Virgin Hotels gets new CEO

The Virgin Hotel New York is set to open this year. Photo credit: Virgin Hotels (Virgin Hotel New York)

Virgin Hotels, the brand developed by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, has appointed James Bermingham as the division's CEO, effective immediately. Bermingham is stepping into the role following former CEO Raul Leal's departure after 10 years leading the company. 

Bermingham joins the Virgin Hotels executive team following nearly two decades with Montage International. He will be responsible for delivering the company's global growth pipeline, customer experience and culture.

"We are thrilled to welcome James into the Virgin Hotels family," Branson said in a statement. "For over a decade, we have been devoted to providing entertaining and unforgettable experiences for our guests, and I can think of no one better than James to spearhead this effort as we continue to grow the brand on a global scale." 

James Bermingham

Bermingham began his hospitality career more than 35 years ago in his hometown of Dublin, followed by 10 years in London, including executive roles with ITT Sheraton Corp. In the U.S., he held general manager roles at the St. Regis Hotel in Houston and the Montage Laguna Beach (Calif.). Since 2008, he was EVP operations for Montage International, where he oversaw all aspects of operations for the Montage and Pendry Hotel brand’s seven hotels and resorts, including owner relations, culture development and sales and marketing. 

"I have long admired Virgin Hotels' ability to seamlessly blend smart and innovative design with elevated service and— maybe most importantly—fun," Bermingham said. "Watching the brand grow into itself as a reliable haven for both leisure and business travelers without sacrificing its inherent 'cool factor' has been exciting, to say the least, and I'm really looking forward to joining such a dynamic team."

Growing Pipeline

"James' appointment comes at an exciting time of accelerating growth for us," said Peter Norris, chairman of Virgin Hotels. "His decades of industry experience and acute global expertise will be a true asset for the brand as we push to expand our footprint both domestically and internationally."

A month ago, Virgin announced plans to open three U.S. hotels this year. The first opening will be the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, followed by Virgin Hotels New Orleans this summer and Virgin Hotels New York City this fall. The company already operates hotels in Chicago,  Nashville and—most recently—Dallas. Properties in Miami and Edinburgh, Scotland, are also in development, and the Virgin team is pursuing additional opportunities in Philadelphia; Glasgow, Scotland; Cannes, France; and Ibiza, Spain. The company is also exploring hotel and office conversions and ground-up development in Philadelphia; Boston; Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Seattle; and London.